Yolkobsens tried three times to get into the extremely popular lunch spot, Rincon Tipico, in Antigua Guatemala. Never could get a seat. But the third time was the charm. Our tenacity paid off and we finally got to find out why this eatery is so popular and crowded between noon and 3:30 p.m. during the weekday “almuerzo” frenzy.
Our secret? We went at gringo lunch time, shortly after noon. All of the other civilized folk, that is, the true Antiguans, wouldn’t put their fine selves in a dining chair until after 1 p.m., which worked to our advantage.
Located on the west side of the 4a Calle (#3), a few blocks west of the Parque Central, you can’t miss the place because as you approach, frankly, it looks like it’s on fire. Smoke pours out of the grand old colonial entrance as three women make tortillas, the size of dessert plates, on a giant griddle. Like well-oiled machines they pat-pat-pat and then put the tortillas down on the hot griddle hood, sending smoke signals that almost compete with nearby Volcano Fuego’s gentle puffs.
Once you penetrate the curtain of smoke, you find a large table heavy with the day’s offerings. The first thing that caught my eye was a pond-size bowl of golden yellow potato salad and then it was drawn to the massive vats of chicken and beef stews. A group of women in aprons scarred by long service stand duty over the last details as the first set of customers arrived.
Once we passed the groaning board at the front, formerly the entrance way of a fine old Spanish colonial home, we realized the smoke is also part of the restaurant’s interior charm. Rincon Tipico is an outdoor restaurant with a few tables under protection from the balconies above and with most of the tables set out in the garden. The smoke follows you everywhere you go as does a gentle sprinkling of ash generated by the tortilla action at the front. It’s not really a problem and you quickly adjust.
Service is prompt and efficient. The ladies who serve are no-nonsense types with no time for chit-chat. Basically, it’s chicken or beef stew with potato salad and rice. A complementary fruit punch, enlivened with slices of fresh pineapple, is also provided. My hearty bowl included a chicken drumstick and thigh cooked to perfection in a flavorful sauce and accompanied by seasoned rice and one of the best potato salads I’ve had yet in Guatemala. Kudos to Rincon Tipico for relying on cilantro and other ingredients (herbs?) for flavor and going easy on the mayonnaise. And you get a full basket of the tortillas, the restaurant’s smokey siren call. They come steaming to the table and have just the right balance of corn and smokey tastes. Rice was a bit salty, but that’s a quibble.
After we’d finished our lunch we used the table to map out our route for the afternoon and Mrs. Y took her time translating from Spanish into English a list of phrases I thought I might need. Though starting to crowd up, restaurant staff never gave us the bum’s rush or even a mild stink eye. We were impressed with their hospitality.
Another impressive thing was the price. For the price of a double latte in Toronto, we got two good, full, home-style meals that carried us well into the dinner hour — Antigua dinner hour, that is. We highly recommend Rincon Tipico.